I’ve been saving up to have my kitchen redone, but I’m a bit worried about it. Last time I had any work done on the house, it took more than double the time I thought it would and ended up costing me a fortune. I’m looking for a different builder this time, but how will I know I can trust them?

Many of us will take advantage of the warmer weather and bank holiday weekend coming up to improve our homes, and it’s important to make sure the job goes well. Here are some steps you should take when choosing a trader:

  •     Find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’ - use the internet to search for one in your area or the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark.
  •     Get references or recommendations - ask people you know or ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references - it’s a sign they could be dishonest.
  •     Find out if they are a current member of a trade body - trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong, so check your trader is a member. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website.
  •     Only use certified traders for gas and electrics - it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work. When you’re having a kitchen fitted, it’s worth checking whether the person you’ve hired will be doing the electrical or gas work themselves. If not, check who they will be using and whether they’re registered.
  •     Get a written quote - this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason - for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. Try to compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
  •     Get a written contract - this should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, like timings, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors.
  •     Think carefully about payment - opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Where possible, try to pay by card as this can afford you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.
  •     Keep copies of receipts - also keep your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem with a contractor, and you’re not sure what to do or where to go, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133.

You can also come to us for free confidential adviceOwing to the Coronavirus outbreak we have closed our offices to face to face services.  We are providing advice by phone and email Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm.  You can contact us through Adviceline: 0808 2787 806 or use our email enquiry service.  Alternatively you can contact us through webchat accessed through the Citizens Advice website.